Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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One Friday night a few years ago, after attending an African American History Month program, several of my sorority sisters and I decided to travel to a nearby town for dinner. The meal cost a little more than we intended, so after covering the check, the six of us could only leave a $3 tip. As we were leaving, our server, "Jane," met us at the front door of the restaurant asking if the service had been less than adequate. "The bill was $70 -- I was expecting a $10 tip -- we only make $2 an hour." Stunned, we all walked past her without a word. When she saw that we weren't going to give her any more money, she said, in front of other employees and patrons, "Well, do me a favor and don't come back!" This happened in February 1995. This restaurant has not received my business since.     Business0820-02

And what did you expect someone to say when confronted with the theft of her service and time? When you eat at a restaurant, the cost of your meal will ALWAYS include the 15% gratuity to the server for acceptable service.  Your waitress served a party of six with obviously no complaints about her service and then gets rewarded with an insulting tip.  You should have scaled back your menu selections to match the budget and failing to do so, apologized profusely to the waitress with a promise to return with the balance of what all six of you owed her.  You six deserved to be humiliated in public for your theivery AND thrown into Etiquette Hell for having the audacity to think I would agree with you and pitch your waitress in Etiquette Hell for you. 

After four-and-a-half years at the same company, I was leaving without having another job (that's how bad it really was) mostly due to my new hyper-micro-manager, who decided that all of a sudden, I was incapable of completing the same projects I had successfully completed in the 4.5 years I had worked there. Anyway, this story is about my farewell party.

I had made many close friends in the time that I worked for the company, and unbeknownst to me, they planned a surprise farewell for me. Because the company doesn't provide funds for any personal celebrations, my friends took up a collection for my cake. When they approached my (now) former supervisor, "Rasheed" threw a complete fit that they were even considering purchasing a cake from a popular bakery in town which would have cost @ $50 for 30 or so people. Instead, "Rasheed" gave them a lecture about how a $15 sheet cake from the local grocer was much more reasonable and that he refused to contribute any money at all. It gets better.

The day of the party, we all gathered in a conference room and enjoyed the cake (from the popular bakery) and visiting before I left. A few people were murmuring about "Rasheed"'s absence but I didn't think much of it since I didn't want to spoil the nice gesture from all my friends. When the party broke up, "Sue" and I were in the conference room chatting. Just then, a "Rasheed" burst in the open door way and exclaimed, "What is THIS?" Too shocked to answer quickly (It's not like he didn't know about it ­ I WAS one of only four employees of his) I just stood there while "Sue" took the words right out of my mouth: "What do you think it is? It's "Sally's" going away party!" And with that, "Rasheed" proceeded to take the very last piece of cake and walk out of the room with nary a single word to me.    Business0213-01

I work at a hospital and at Christmas time the department as a whole receives cookies, candy, and lunches from sales reps. This past Christmas we received a beautiful basket of cookies, candy, and fruit, addressed to the department. Well , the director of the department ended up taking it home to his family, and then to top it off we did not receive anything from him even though we all chipped in on a gift for him. What a scrooge.       Business0211-01

I worked for a large food service company for eight years and during my last 18 months there I had four different bosses after the one who hired me left to start his own business. I got along with all of them except the last one. I also work part time as an independent contractor which occasionally made me about 30 minutes late. The first three bosses had no problem with this, I was still able to get my work done . The last one however, could not accept this and after a few months, started taking work away from me. He even tried to demote me down to dishwasher, and also told me that I was not capable of doing want he wanted because I did not have a college education nor can I afford one. At this point I had had enough and gave him my two weeks' notice. Since I had one week's vacation scheduled for the following week, he had one week to find a replacement.

After I had received my last two paychecks, I sent a letter to his boss, telling him that I left the company because of this guy, going into full detail about how he treated me. Within six weeks, he was let go. It did not help that two of my former coworkers also quit after I left, and that a few months previously he had been fired from the repair facility that, ironically, does all the maintenance on my vehicle for stealing candy and tires from them.    Business0207-01

This was reported to me by an acquaintance who works as a recruiter for a small technology company on the East Coast. This company, regardless of its size, made sure all its prospective employees were made to feel welcome. It was customary for the interviewing manager to take the interviewee to lunch as a show of good faith.

One particular candidate was an interesting sort. She was Ivy-league educated and came from a wealthy family. During the interview, she was drinking a bottle of juice. Seeing a garbage can behind her, she nonchalantly flipped the bottle over her shoulder and into the garbage. At lunch, the manager was slightly surprised that her bill had come to $35, as most candidates order less than $15 worth of food. Upon further scrutiny, he discovered that she had ordered expensive items "to go" and had stuffed them in her purse.    Business0222-01

My husband used to work for a small software company where he got to know his boss' family well. The boss' wife was an absolutely charming woman -- friendly, kind, an outstanding mother, immaculate housekeeper, and still stunning after fifteen years of marriage. Did I mention that she put the boss through school to get his MBA? We all loved her. Well, all of us except the boss, and a woman in the office. It was bound to get out sooner or later. My husband walked in on the young lovers while returning to the office late one evening to fix an off-line server.

The boss and his new girlfriend wasted no time. The lovebirds went from office to office one afternoon, telling employees face to face of their love, and asking for each employee's blessing. This woman was not well liked before the affair; she was now hated for breaking up a long-term marriage with two kids under 12. The wedding invitations went out to all staff. The wedding was the night before Thanksgiving! It was made clear that anyone not attending would be in jeopardy of losing their job. Several staff members were forced to change their Thanksgiving plans to be in town for the wedding. Staff made up the bulk of the wedding guests, with a few friends and the children of both bride and groom rounding out the crowd.

I have never seen a wedding, before or since, with so many guests who couldn't wait to leave. The bride evidently wanted to make this an affair to remember. She wore unrelieved black -- black backless weskit-type vest slit to expose maximum cleavage in front, with a pair of split pants, fishnets, and heels. The bride and groom were unhappy with the number of people who bolted their dinners and ran, especially after witnessing a first kiss that frankly was embarrassing.

My husband decided to leave the company soon afterwards, and we found out awhile back that things didn't go so well for the newlyweds. The owner of the company came into town unexpectedly to announce a buyout. The boss and his new wife were publicly fired in front of the entire company. The newlyweds were forced to sell their dream home and move to another area, which they were very unhappy about. The former wife? She's very happily remarried.


When my boss's boss got pregnant, my boss "Cathy" was very excited. So excited that she thought we all must be totally happy for "Sally". So she offered to have her department throw a shower for Sally at an employee's home, on a Saturday. (The last time a lady at work had a kid, the shower was held during work hours.) We were told to chip in ten bucks to cover it.

I live thirty miles from this woman's house and I really didn't feel like going. I sent a nice gift Twenty-dollar gift for the baby and for Cathy's two year old son, explaining that I had to attend a shower that same day for a family member. I thought that was that. When Cathy went into labor, Sally had us all chip in money for flowers. When Cathy went home, Sally wanted each of us to volunteer to provide a meal (salad, bread, veggies, meat and desert) for Cathy-- and her husband, her two year old, 19 year old son, and her mother who was staying with her. I was put in a difficult place, seriously wondering why, with three adults who hadn't given birth in a house, no body could order pizza.

Cathy drives a Lexus, I drive a car that I'm happy will crank. I tossed in a ten dollar gift certificate to a pizza place because I really felt pressured to do something. What really got me was I'm not a point in my life where I feel it would be the right thing to have a child. Another woman in the department is trying to have a kid, and is having no luck. And here we were being expected to chip in for a woman who had enough stuff left over from her second son for this one. It just got on my nerves.    Business0325-01

I had been working at my first real job for about 6 months. We worked in a nice, modern building downtown which had been a "non-smoking" building about a year. I worked in an open-area, the rest of my department (10 people) had offices with doors that opened into my area.

One of my co-workers had worked with the company for quite a long time and although the building was non-smoking, "special permission" was granted to her to smoke simply because she was a long-time employee and someone felt that she should be allowed to keep doing it (she smoked about 2 packs a day). I was starting to get migraines and sore eyes on a daily basis (besides the fact that it irked me that I had to work in the smoke and breathe it all day!). It got so bad that I decided to speak to my boss directly. I scheduled a meeting and told him that I was having migraines and sore eyes and that I wasn't comfortable working in the smoke. I asked him to install an air filter or something to take the smoke away. He listened to my concerns and then said "You know Sally, I think you should just respect your elders and deal with it" and proceeded to end the meeting. I quit 2 weeks later. Respect my elders? What about respecting my health?!      Business0508-01

I don't know if this constitutes a breach of etiquette, but it certainly is a faux pas of some sort. Back when the whole Clarence Thomas thing came out I was working for a well known brokerage firm. Our company had all the managers give a seminar, for lack of a better word, to all the female staff detailing company policy and how to handle the situation should it arise. Our manager held a meeting which all of the female support staff were required to attend. He outlined company policy. He explained how sexual harassment would not be tolerated in any way. He assured us that should we ever have a need to report an incident, we would be taken quite seriously. He asked if we had any questions. No one had any. He wrapped up the meeting by saying he was glad we all understood. Then he said, "But you know, the way some of you dress, you really are asking for it." I literally choked trying to control my laughter. The friend that was sitting next to me was stomping on my foot and the one across the table was kicking me. Everyone else looked stunned. Mr. Clueless just looked confused. Not long after that he was promoted to Corporate and, thankfully, we didn't have to deal with him anymore.


My story involves a co-worker from my early professional days. Actually, I suspected she was a bit disturbed. I was working in a buying area for a major retailer. On my second day, this co-worker, (I'll call her Cruella), came into my office, stood over me and started to yell. "Do this! Do that! Now! Now! Now! What was the matter with me?" If I was going to make it at this job I have to multi-task at blind speed. My boss was in earshot, and I was wondering why he did not interject. Then I made my big mistake. I turned around and said. "Yes Cruella, I understand that. But it won't happen today. Maybe in 4 to 6 weeks when I've learned my job, but not today." A vicious look came over her face, and she spun around and went on the warpath to our boss and proceeded to yell at him about me. He did back her a bit. I was truly appalled at her behavior. I soon learned it was nothing personal. She treated everyone badly. As long as she was consistent, she felt she was in the right. However, I made the faux pox of being assertive and firm in the face of her abuse. And on my second day, no less.

I did learn my job well, and performed it well. And Cruella made it her job to harass me endlessly for standing up to her. She never greeted me in a friendly manner. She had the cubicle next to me. She arrived at work later than I did. Every morning she'd enter her office and take her bag and fling it at my wall with a violent bang. She knew the way my office was laid out, and she was smacking it near me.

This was a pre-voice mail world, and we all had call pick up groups. If you heard a phone in your group ring more than three times, you were suppose to pick up that line and take a message. Cruella of course sat in her office and purposely did NOT answer her phone. If I was not available to pick up her line, she'd lie in wait for me and scream at me about it. Our boss did try to smooth things a little bit. However, he was afraid of her, and had no experience of dealing with the out of control. I did consistently receive worse treatment than the others. Somehow she'd manipulate our workload to make me look bad, or keep me late. My boss didn't think she could be that devious. Cruella would come into my office a couple times a week when I had the nerve to go to the rest room and dump out all my files all over my desk. Then she'd claim she was looking for something. There was no reason to find anything she'd need in my office. If she couldn't push me around, she'd run over to our boss and I could her here yell "She's doing it again!" Whatever that meant. My boss blew her off, but never curbed the behavior.

Well, our boss had a great developmental idea for Cruella. Force her into trying to have a better relationship with me. He suggested she invite me for coffee or a soda in the cafeteria and have a nice social chat with me. Try to get to know me, and try to build a better relationship.

To this day I get the feeling of dread if a coworker offers to buy me a soda and have a chat. Cruella didn't get the joke. She felt her mission was to force me to knuckle under, not learn how to be civil to someone. She bought me the soda. Then proceeded to tell me that I was NOT one of them, and would not be one of them. I took this to mean she thought I was less than fashionably acceptable. I was 5 ft 2, and 120 lbs. with brown hair and brown eyes. I wore a size 6-8 at the time. I wasn't scrawny, but I wasn't a blimp. I did know she hated fat people. She was about 5 ft 5 and probably the same weight. Long blonde hair and blue eyes. I didn't dress completely trendy, but my wardrobe was moderately priced and current. My best guess is she didn't like brunettes, and she didn't like people who weren't consumed with their looks. I check with a couple of people I could trust. Was I on the homely side? No one ever told me that before? At least I don't have the perpetually pinched look that Cruella had. No, in fact I fell into the fairly cute category. But I wasn't much in Cruella's eyes. But the feeling was mutual.

The Cruella told me that if I expected to get anywhere in this company I had knuckle under to her. She was the gatekeeper to my future and she would hold me back if I didn't submit to her abuse.

I was less than impressed, and felt it was a threat. I believe I told her she could think what she liked and walked away. Then I did thank my boss for giving Cruella the opportunity to threaten me and make it clear she was going to keep me from being accepted.

Not long later my boss caught Cruella in an out and out lie. He walked into my office dumb founded and said "She lied! She lied to me! Even though I caught her!" Oh, yes she did. Cruella was pregnant, and felt she wasn't getting the opportunities owned to her in our group. If she took the 3 month maternity option the company would guarantee her a position, but not necessarily in the same area. With a snooty snub of a voice she announced to us all, that she would be taking this option and wanted to be in a new area when she came back. Which was good, because our boss was going to make sure she wouldn't be back. As you can imagine, Cruella was rabid during her pregnancy, and of course hers was worse than any woman's in history. There was a big celebration when she gave birth. She wouldn't be back.

I did leave the buying department for the Information Systems area and rose nicely through the ranks. Cruella is still hoping buying departments doing the same job.

It's a very icy experience when we periodically end up in the same elevator. I am comforted to know that she has many icy elevator rides, because her abuse and rudeness is consistent and doled out to everybody.   Business0527-01

I work in a large international company. My department in particular is made up "fast-trackers" and can be very intense. Most spend about two years getting great experience and then moving on to another part of the company with less stress. I received a promotion about a year into the department and they ended up hiring a lady from outside the company to replace me. We can call her Kathy. S

he seemed very nice and somewhat capable, but did seem to have a lot going on in her personal life (new baby, new husband, step kids). So often when the department was working till 8 or 9 at night she would leave at 5 or earlier to pick up her son. Most people understood this and didn't think much about it. But after a while she began to take advantage of this and I ended up doing a lot of her work in addition to my own.

Well about 1 year after her hire, management decided that our department would be moving to another state. That is the work would be moving, all of us had to find new jobs. This was fine with me since I was fairly burnt out at this point in time. But Kathy wasn't very happy about it, after all she would be losing her cushy job. It was eventually determined that Kathy's last day would be two months earlier than mine because I (and a few others) had stay on to train the new staff.

During her last week I was training a member of the new staff, we never even mentioned Kathy or had any discussions about her. But that night I get the oddest voicemail from Kathy to me and the new replacement saying how she heard our conversation calling her weird, strange, and disorganized. Um, we never said anything like that. I confronted Kathy as soon as I could and she just went off about how for the last year my attitude was horrible, I had it in for her, and that she knew all about my plans. My plans? It seems that she thought I had been trying to get her fired and it was my fault her job was terminated earlier than mine. The actual reason was that management had figured out she had a horrible work ethic and didn't want or need her around any more. I told Kathy that none of it was true, but she wouldn't hear of it. She left a few days later and I've never heard from her since. Thank goodness!     Business0612-01

A few years ago I received a gift certificate to a shopping center for a birthday gift. When I went to the center to use it, I found that there weren't all that many stores which appealed to me (lots of really upscale shops that went way beyond my gift certificate and budget as I was a college student at the time). I decided that I would use it at a very popular clothing store which shall remain nameless.

I wore a size 16 during this time, so I wasn't always successful at finding every style in my size. I looked around the store for a few minutes, just getting a feel for what they had that I might be interested in. After I had looked at three or four items a very slight, petite saleswoman in her forties asked me if I was looking for a gift. I told her that I was looking for something for myself and she made a funny face at me and said, "I don't think you'll find anything in your size here." My feelings were a bit hurt, but I ignored her and thought of remarks that I would like to make but didn't. I really hadn't seen any other stores in this shopping center where I could buy anything, so I felt like I had to shop at this particular store and I kept looking.

A few minutes later, she walked up to me again and said, "You're still looking? Well, if you really want something that will fit may I suggest that you look in our men's clothing?" She paused for a moment and added, "Oh, wait, no--there's nothing over there big enough for you either."

I believe that what I said to her was something about courtesy and customer service and how could she possibly have reached her advanced age without learning anything about either. Needless to say I have not spent a dime in any of the chains of that store since. With the gift certificate, I ended up buying something for my husband at another store.


I worked as an attorney for a medium sized law firm where the average stay for attorneys was less than 10 months because the conditions were so awful. The boss, "Andy", was and from what I've heard still is a psycho boss from hell. "Andy" was paranoid and would go through everyone's desks and trash cans each night to see what he could find. We all began pouring water/soft drinks into our trashcans at the end of the day to make that task more unpleasant for him.

"Andy" would also go on nocturnal office rampages --- you'd come into your office in the morning and find your lamp broken and the file hangers torn out of your filing cabinets. "Andy" didn't allow us to bring soft drink cans or fast food bags into the office because he thought they looked "low class". He once caught me with a McDonald's cup sitting on the floor behind my desk, and he kicked it over in a rage and then ran to the supply room, grabbed a roll of paper towels, ran back to my office and threw the towels at me and yelled "clean up that @$*@_#$_ mess!!!

He himself was so "classy" that when you sat in his office talking to him he'd dig in his ear with a paper clip or a pen and then hold up and examine his excavation right in front of you! It was disgusting! He also said he didn't view us as people but as "income producing units". He had a foul mouth and a vile temper, and bursts of profanity often filled the office, but we "employees" had to put a quarter in a jar every time we cussed! He once grabbed the telephone from his secretary in a rage while she was talking and wound up ripping out a handful of her hair. He had the office manager spy on everyone, and she would stand outside your door and pretend she was reading or looking at a file while she was trying to hear what you were saying so she could report back to him. Of course, to amuse ourselves we used this spying to circulate "disinformation"! Needless to say, I got out of there at the first opportunity and 90% of the staff has changed since I left. Good riddance!     Business0709-01

The technicians at the electronics store where I used to work said the boss, "Bart," suffered from what they called "short man syndrome." In other words, he tried to be ten times as nasty to make up for his insecurity over being only 5' 3". When Bart said jump, everyone was expected to ask how high....unless he was in an especially bad mood, in which case you'd better shut up and do your job if you knew what was good for you! He threw everyone for a loop one day when he stood around talking and laughing with the guys. After about 30 minutes, Bart looked at his watch and yelled, "Get back to work! Do you realize this little party just cost me $100?"

I was hired for inside sales and was presented with a list of names Bart wanted me to call. Many of them wouldn't give me the time of day but finally one of them asked if I'd been working for Bart very long. When I told him I'd just started, he advised me to get ready for a lot of rejection. "Most of the people in this industry know Bart," he said, "and they refuse to deal with him. You'll find out why, if you haven't figured it out already." He was definitely right about that. I got tired of wasting my time making those calls and told him I was too stressed out to continue, so I was giving him notice. His office manager, who I liked, was scheduled to have surgery so I told him I'd stay and cover for her until she was able to return to work. He assured me he didn't want me to quit and if I stayed, he'd find something else for me to do. It was one of the dumbest things I've ever done.

From that point on, Bart made my life hell every chance he got. He chewed me out once for locking the service door while I sent a fax, even though any customers could easily ring the bell, but if I'd left it open, anyone could have walked in off the street and stolen hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. When I asked him how I was supposed to be in two places at one time he said, "You'll figure something out." After about a week, he hired another woman to make sales calls. She and I both smoked, but while she could take a cigarette break any time she felt like it, I was required to ask permission. He had a cat that lived in the office and it would often come and plop itself down right in the middle of my desk, so of course I would be yelled at for playing with it. If I had a conversation with any of the customers about anything other than business, he'd wait until they left and holler that he didn't pay me to socialize.

The one that makes everyone's jaw drop when I tell them about it, though, was the time Bart went out to a convent to personally supervise the crew working on the in-house cable television system, which our company had installed. The nuns also subscribed to regular cable television and the other company would be needed to come out and check their part of the system. Bart called and asked to speak to the service manager. When he got off the phone, the service manager told me, "I'm glad you're sitting down. Guess what Bart wants you to do now?" As it turned out, the other cable company hated Bart's guts (what a surprise) and refused to do business with him. Not wanting to have to explain this to the Sisters, Bart wanted ME to call them and impersonate a nun!!! I'm not Catholic, but I refused to show that much disrespect toward women who had devoted their entire lives to their religion, so he had to come up with another plan.

It will come to no shock to anyone, I'm sure, to learn that he fired me not long after that. As I was gathering up my personal items, the service manager told me not to feel bad, as the same thing had happened to five other women in the last two years. Bart had his secretary type up a list of grievances, which I took with me to the unemployment office. The counselor looked it over briefly and told me, "This is what we in this business call a 'Garbage Claim.' Don't worry, you're eligible." I heard later that his entire service department walked out en masse. What a surprise.


Here is another true life story for your business etiquette file.... My co-worker a male in his early 30's had car trouble and needed a ride to the dentist during the workday. Because I needed to work with him, I gave him a ride. While in route to the dentist, he flossed his teeth in my car. This is all I can share without your dear readers losing their appetite. Thanks again for a great website.    Business0827-01

During this summer I worked two jobs for a while -- one at a craft store and one at a pizza place. We had two female managers who were friendly and competent -- and then there was "Greg".

Greg was always scheduled to come in at 3:00 PM. He never showed up before 4. He was the one who wrote out the schedule, and he couldn't even follow it. Plus, he did the schedules at the last minute, so we'd have to call in on Saturday to see if we worked the next day.

Besides always being late, Greg had a tendency to take off on personal errands during business hours. Once he went over to the pet store across the plaza to buy food for his ferret. Another time -- which I still remember vividly as one of my worst days there -- he went across town to buy himself insulin (which he injected in himself on one of the prep tables in the back room). While he was gone, we ran out of pepperoni. Now, he'd looked in the cabinet and seen we were low on pepperoni. Plus, this was a Monday, and on Mondays we always sold large pepperoni pizzas for five dollars. By the time he got back -- over an hour had passed -- we'd sent a coworker to get a box of pepperoni from the other pizza place (small town, but there were two of this same brand -- lucky us). Greg didn't even apologize, didn't say anything except to kick every single one of us off the prep counter and make all the back-ordered pizzas (there was a huge line by now) HIMSELF, flinging the pans and measuring cups around and generally wasting a lot of time and ingredients because he couldn't control his temper. He always did this when there was a rush, because he claimed we "screwed him up".

Finally, he made me cry two nights in a row because I wasn't taking the phone orders fast enough -- yeah, I wasn't a speed demon because I was still kind of new to the phone thing, but he didn't have to insult me about it, right? The second night I just grabbed my bag and yelled "Hey Greg! I quit!"

Every day I went down to that plaza (the craft store was there too) I saw his stupid motorcycle sitting out in the parking lot, and I just wanted to cover it in tomato sauce and pepperoni. I guess it's better that I didn't, but wouldn't that be a great photo opportunity?


Hi There, I'll never forget a particularly "interesting" man I used to work for. Although he did many strange things, one particular episode sticks in my mind - he walked into my office, and began lecturing me about something-or-other. After a while, he started playing with the key of my filing cabinet. (Which was in the lock.) He took the key, and without blinking, proceeded to clean his ear out with it, and then absentmindedly replaced it in the lock and wandered off! EEWWWW!!!


Like in most places, when fundraiser time is upon us, parents start bringing their child's' order form into work. Well, I work with this one woman who we will name "AnnaLee". She had brought her child's order form in, and we had passed it around the office in the usual fashion. I passed it to the one person who hadn't received it yet, we'll call him "Joe".

Well, the next morning when I arrived at work, AnnaLee came up to me and asked if I had seen the fundraiser. Naturally, I told her that the last place I had seen it was in Joe's mailbox. The fundraiser was no longer in the mailbox and seemed to be gone without a trace. Joe was not in the office that day, so we had no way of asking him whom he had passed it on to. However, we did ask the janitor to keep an eye for it. A few hours later, while emptying out Joe's garbage can, the janitor found the fundraiser. I guess that it could have been confused with junk mail had it all been in one large envelope, however, the janitor found it sheet by sheet. It had been taken out of it's protective wrapping and thrown out in separate parts! How can a person not realize that this is a fundraiser in front of them? When asked why he had thrown it out, he replied simply "I thought it was junk mail". The nerve (or stupidity) of some people!!


I was so thankful when one woman transferred from my worksite during my absence for cancer surgery. (I'm currently in remission.) She could talk nonstop on any subject, in great detail, including personal matters of her immediate family and others, things that were no one's business and would horrify these people if they knew were being spread about.

Well, I recently retired and she just had to come back to see me. She brought a gift. And then she couldn't wait to tell me about her friend who was diagnosed at the same time I was (different type of cancer), had surgery when I did, chemotherapy when I did, etc. Sadly, this woman passed away last fall. But never fear--I got all the details including some particularly graphic ones of her last days.

That being done, she went on to tell me about the mother of another friend who has the same type of cancer I have but more recently diagnosed. "Of course" there is nothing they can do for her; doctors are despairing; she will do treatment but it's essentially hopeless..." Now if you think I was upset, truly I wasn't. I've learned to live with this type of thing, the overprotective who won't use the "c" word anywhere near me, and the overconcerned who are afraid I'll hurt myself if I pick up a paperclip and who are amazed I am 99.9 percent normal. Being at work in a building where we have sheriff bailiffs and city police officers, not to mention workplace policy on violence against fellow workers, there was nothing I could do. However, it did take great strength and fortitude on my part (plus not wanting to get suspended just before my party on my last day) not to pick up my wastebasket and firmly plant it over her head and escort her out--still talking of course! Truly, some people DO NOT THINK before they open their mouths!


Well, I've got a great business related etiquette story. I worked for at a dry cleaning satellite about five years ago. At our facility, we accepted the items to be dry cleaned and tagged and separated them. The clothes would then be picked up and delivered to the main plant.

A close friend of mine, "Ashleigh," also worked there and had gotten me the job. Our boss was a rather shrill woman named "Heidi." Heidi and her husband both owned the company and worked at the main plant. Heidi did a lot of the dry cleaning and was notorious for "losing" articles of clothing. The company was then responsible for giving the customer a check to make up for their missing clothing. Heidi's husband "Ed," eventually got so tired of her misplacing things, and costing them money that he threatened to "fire" her if she did it again.

Needless to say, something was lost again. It was supposed to get returned to our location on Friday, my scheduled day to work. It didn't. When the woman who owned this item (a women's size 2X raincoat) came in to pick it upon Monday, it wasn't there. My friend who worked with me, "Ashleigh," called Heidi, and told her about the problem and the irate customer. Heidi insisted that I must have STOLE the raincoat (never mind that I take a size 6), and demanded that Ashleigh put up an "I'll be back in 10 minutes" sign on the front door, drive to my house, and scour my closets for the missing raincoat. When Ashleigh refused, Heidi said that she would be over personally to do so. Ashleigh, of course, called to warn me. Well, Heidi never showed. Nor did she ever once accuse me of stealing a thing. I even confronted her about it, and she denied ever saying anything. However, I did hear from all her other employees that she talked about the "incident" endlessly behind my back. I found another job! I did hear from Ashleigh that Heidi ended up getting "fired" by her husband, who finally had enough!


I had recently graduated college and was starting my first "real" job. I was organizing several study abroad programs for a well-respected law school, a job I enjoyed very much. On the downside, I was also required to provide a small amount of administrative support (10% of my time, said my job description) to three law professors. Of course my administrative tasks took up way more that 10% of my time, and as a young and eager-to-please employee I never complained and was known as a real "go-getter" or AKA, someone who can be taken advantage of. In addition, for those of you who have not had the opportunity to work for Law Professors, they are, in general, the most overpaid, immature, lazy, egotistical, and chauvinistic lot I have ever worked with. Although I am sure there are exceptions, the institution I worked for encouraged and rewarded this kind of boorish behavior, which is why my situation was so extreme.

Story #1

One day, after I had been working there about six months, one of the Professors I worked for, we'll call him Professor Smarty Pants, asked me at 4:45 on the Friday afternoon of a very busy week to do one last assignment for him. Professor Smarty Pants presented me with the latest and particularly thick copy of "The New Yorker" magazine and asked me to shrink and photocopy the entire magazine, including advertisements, and make it into a small 4X6 book. I performed this boring and monotonous task, which took over an hour without complaint. I assumed he needed it, for some reason, for a Monday morning class, and I was pleased to help.

When I was asked by Professor Smarty Pants to do the same thing the following Friday, which again caused me to stay an hour later at work, even I, the happy go-getter, began to feel annoyed. Not only was I not this person's personal secretary, but it was rude to make me consistently stay late on Friday afternoons. Finally, after doing this task for the third week in a row, I began to complain to several co-workers. At which point I was told, in between peels of laughter, that his wife was a born again Christian, and dragged him to a church he hated every Sunday. I was copying the New Yorker into a little book that he could put in his Bible, so he could read in church without his wife finding out! The following week when I was asked to do this same odious task, I politely declined and claimed that I was too busy on other projects. He never asked again.

Story #2

Another Professor that I worked for, I'll call him Professor Fat Head, again misunderstood the amount and type of "administrative support" that I was to give him. He had begun promising various snacks for his 1:00 PM class, which I was expected to shop for and then spend my lunch hour preparing. When I would deliver the snacks to his class, his students, who were my age and thought they were superior to me because they were in law school, would snicker and laugh as I served them the aforementioned treats. It was, and remains, one of my most humiliating memories. After weeks of this, I reached my breaking point, and told Professor Fat Head, very politely, they I would no longer be able to cater to his classes, it was inferring with my other work, not to mention my own lunch lour. At which point, Professor Fat Head threw a $20 bill in my face, and rudely asked me if that would be enough for my "inconvenience". I said it was not, and that I would not be cooking and cleaning up after his class again. Rather than continue to deal with me, he took the considerable trouble to move offices, and hopefully find an assistant with zero self respect who would act as his personal maid and cook.


Several years ago I was the executive assistant to the president of a company with a very small main office. Some of their business practices were questionable, and he mixed his personal and business activities, sometimes with my assistance. I just tried to keep my nose out of it... He would ask me to buy gifts for his mistress (he was married). He had me arrange for a private phone line to be installed in his office so his mistress could call without going through me. Since there were only 5 people in this office, I'm not sure if he really thought he was pulling the wool over our eyes, but no one said a word. Things there were sometimes uncomfortable.

If I worked overtime, I wasn't paid extra because I was a salaried employee. But if I missed 30 minutes to go to a doctor appointment I was required to make up the time. After working there a year, I started looking for other employment. Apparently one of the companies to whom I had submitted my resume called this guy for a reference. I was fired the next day, and my replacement was in the office (they had been interviewing for another position and hired one of those candidates to take my place). They told me that "it would have been inconvenient for me to give them only two weeks notice, so they were letting me go." I could stay for a week to train my replacement. Later that day they asked me to sign a paper saying that I was leaving of my own free will. I refused to sign, and told them that if I did then I couldn't collect unemployment if I wasn't able to find another job quickly. They quickly backed down, said that the form was just "standard," and now I miraculously wasn't being fired. I was in this weird limbo where I came to work, logged my time, and collected a paycheck, but I wasn't actually working there. They refused to fire me because I wouldn't sign the form. I stayed 5 more days until I found a job with a temp company. My replacement lasted only a month.      business0501-02

One job I had was working for a mid-size advertising company. I worked in an open concept art studio with about ten other people. One guy in particular would belch and fart as loud as he could on a daily basis. And being an open concept studio, you can imagine the sound and smell. His behavior and poor quality work would have been more than enough to get him fired, however, he was the boss's son and his job was guaranteed no matter what he did. I know this because I complained about him several times to his father openly at our weekly meetings with no result.    business0404-02

I'm the Deputy Operations Officer for a multimillion dollar nonprofit organization. As a Gen-Xer with nothing but a high school diploma to my name, I've worked pretty damn hard to earn my position and pay, but lordy, sometimes I feel like quitting just to get away from the Boss from E-Hell!

The CEO of the organization is a piece of work. He's a cheap, tacky, obnoxious b-tard who is uniformly loathed and despised by the employees, heads of others organizations in the area, funders, and city officials. Why? Some examples: First, the obnoxious part. The Chief Ops Officer (my immediate supervisor) is well-connected to someone who now represents a large health foundation, and is authorized to grant up to $1 million to organizations at her own discretion. Well, she contacted our COO and told him that she would fund any credible health-related project that we presented up to that $1 million mark. Okay, fine...but not so fine. The COO arranges a pro forma meeting between the CEO and the foundation rep, but makes it (seemingly) clear that, as he (the COO) has developed this relationship, he should be the primary contact person for developing the project and securing the funding. The CEO (seemingly) agrees, but at the meeting he: 1) introduces the rep to the Chief Financial Officer as a rep from a different (smaller!) foundation; 2) dominates the actual meeting with talk about funding a non-health-related project, which the rep clearly cannot authorize funding for (health foundation, knock knock, hello?); and 3) tries to set up future meetings with the rep, when he had previously agreed to let the COO handle the details after the pro forma meeting.

After the meeting, the rep tells the COO, "I want NOTHING to do with your CEO. We need to have lunch - alone!" A few weeks later, the rep tells the COO that our CEO has been harassing her secretary, calling constantly, hounding her about setting up another meeting to discuss the non-health-related project that she can't fund, etc. Because the rep is impressed with the organization as a whole and has such a strong professional relationship with the COO, she fortunately hasn't told us to pound sand...yet.

I mentioned that he was cheap and tacky, didn't I? Christmas parties are a fine example of his utter nastiness in that regard. A few years back, he made a big deal about taking the administrative staff out to lunch in Beverly Hills, "his treat". Nice restaurant, holiday cheer, etc. First off, he doesn't allow us to order appetizers...ooookay, fine. Then he warns one of the staff (a seafood aficionado who *was* his best friend at the time) not to order the $35 crab leg entree (the cheapest entree was $22.50, gimme a break!). Fine. No desserts...of course! And don't even talk about ordering a simple glass of wine...even though we weren't going back to work after the lunch. Finally, when the check came, he became quite upset and excused himself from the table...turns out, he was arguing with the waiter about the normal gratuity added for parties of 8 or more!

Ah, but the piece de la resistance? He badgered our Board of Directors to reimburse him for this lunch that was "his treat"! Did I mention that his corporate credit card was canceled by the Board within one month of its issue, because he PURCHASED a tuxedo to wear to the retirement dinner of one of the board members? Or that his mileage allowance was revoked after he continuously lied about driving up to 1500 miles per month, on days/times that we could prove that he was in the office or on vacation? Or that he saw nothing wrong with giving himself a 27% raise after 2 years on the job, which meant substantially reducing the raise given to those with more seniority, including the CFO (20 years on the job), and a maintenance woman (15 years on the job and still making minimum wage!)? Or that he bragged to his secretary about his raise, when she wasn't even going to get a mealy 2.5% cost of living adjustment? Perhaps I should mention that he purchased a $600+ CD recorder "for use by staff" that no one on staff has ever seen, because it has been IN HIS HOUSE since the day it was purchased. And that he had me scan and print (on expensive photo paper purchased by the organization) CD covers of some CDs that he bought, then copied the CDs onto blanks (purchased with the organization's funds), which he then gave as Christmas gifts to his friends. And that he frequently submits multiple travel reimbursement requests for the same expenses when the Chief Financial Officer is on leave, hoping to bully the finance staff into overpaying him. (The CFO has developed ulcers and stress headaches because she has to watch him like a hawk.) Like I said, this guy's a real prince...I hope that he eternally burns in the infernal pit of E-Hell.   business0401-02

I was 8 months pregnant and had to quit my job selling insurance due to the travel and take a job as bookkeeper in a construction company. My supervisor came in my office everyday with a lit cigarette in his hand. Never mind that I was so pregnant I could hardly reach the keys on my typewriter. I didn't know what to do because no one wanted to hire me being 8 months pregnant. As if THAT wasn't bad enough the owner of the company had the nerve to come in my office - notice the cigarette smoke smell and let me know that it was a non-smoking office and he would appreciate it if I didn't smoke in the building. That was my last week at that job!


I was dying to work for a major large department store (discounts on top of sale prices! Imagine 75% off!) Anyway, after submitting several applications, and scoring an interview. I was hired, I wanted to work in the furniture/china department, but because of my young age, 20, I was put in the juniors department. Nobody told me my duties of having to go to the loading dock to get the new shipments and was yelled at for 'nobody has to tell you, you need to just know'.

So, trying hard to help customers and get things right, my divisional manager yelled at me constantly. Despite getting a perfect score on a 'secret shopper' she kept pulling me into her office. She told me, "I'm not sure if you have what it takes to be a 'real' (name of dept. store) girl! You better shape up, your 90 days are coming up. I am always sending girls like you home crying, and I'm not afraid to do that to you too. Oh by the way, here's a donation form for you to DONATE MONEY TO UNITED WAY, or...... not, I expect to see a check with your donation tomorrow under my door, or I may be rethinking your employment status."

The next time I got my schedule I was put in the plus size department, being a 5'3", 20 year old, 119 pound girl, most of the customers 'did not care for my help'. So I was pulled into her office again for 'not doing my job'. January came, and we were hard up for full time schedules. Most people that start working in department stores are shuffled around from department to department until a permanent space is filled. So I asked other departments outside of my divisional managers departments for more hours. I got a few, but she was SO pissed about it! She told all of them to stop giving me more hours. I tried talking to her about getting more hours, and she said "if you were a 'real (name of department store) girl', then you wouldn't have to worry about it!" I had even called in for hours when it snowed, and nobody else came in, not even the customers, we all got sent home a few hours later.

I followed the advice of fellow co-workers, and applied for another job, and put in a request that I could only work Thursday-Sunday. She asked me why and I told her I was taking a second job. She told me, "here at (name of store) we do not allow people to have a second job, it makes scheduling too difficult". So, I told the 2nd job that I was able to work full time, and called in sick to my department store job for the rest of my scheduled time there. Needless to say, I have not set foot in another one of those stores again for 8 years, I only go there if it is an absolute necessity. I am now getting married, and that store has been sending me catalogs asking me to register there, I am SO tempted to write and tell them, "One of your managers there, that works at the 'X' location store has made that decision for you. If you want my business, you should have had her treat her employees better. I will NOT be registering for my Waterford crystal at your store, I will be registering at (their other major competitor), I wish you luck in hiring more competent managers." Can you believe that?     business0521-02

Years ago I moved to a small coastal community and sought work at the local community college there. I secured a part-time position with the county's Retired & Senior Volunteer Project, sponsored and housed on campus. Within just couple of weeks, however, I learned my supervisor, the director of the program, was really Ms. Etiquette Nightmare. This Ms. Nightmare felt her purpose was to gradually invade both my professional and personal life specifically to be controlling and manipulative.

For example, I got a call one weekend, which found her at odds and frustrated that her computer printer wasn't working properly. She was working at home on an important program project and would I drive the 45 minutes to her home to see if I could fix her printer. Hmm, it's my weekend. It's a part-time, no benefited position. It could also mean being on her bad side, so I agreed to allow this intrusion into my personal time. The next thing from her mouth was, "Since there are no pizza joints out here, would you stop and pick up 5 large pizzas for us on your way?"...!!! (Sure dear, with what you pay me, I always have a spare $65 in my wallet for situations just like this one).

Of course her frustrating printer problem was merely that the paper hadn't been fed through the machine correctly (she had been using this printer for years) and dinner for her, her daughters and their friends was the real reason for yet another intrusion into my life. While I was in her home however, she insisted I take another hour or two to go through the clothes in her closet she no longer wore so I could wear them to work. Apparently she didn't feel I presented a demeanor to her standard and felt that by wearing her cast-offs I could be seen with her on campus. I donated the clothes to the local Goodwill.

Ms. Nightmare, myself and one board member traveled to another city for a 4-day annual conference. To save money we roomed together and while there she awoke one morning to discover she'd gotten her monthly. For some reason she felt it necessary to demand housekeeping come to the room immediately so she could show them her bed (which found otherwise would have caused an alarmed call to local homicide detectives) and demand to know why they would not provide courtesy feminine products for her use! Too crass to handle the situation quietly, and too cheap to walk a block and buy her own napkins, the board member and I dressed as quickly as possible and beat a hasty retreat from the room leaving her ranting at staff about how the male hotel manager was prejudiced regarding the needs of women hotel guests.

Very near the end of my year with the program Ms. Nightmare came to work with such a bad cold, and being nearly 400 lbs., could not control her bladder, so that every sneeze caused her to urinate on herself, her skirt and her chair. With each sneeze I'd see her get up twist the waistband of her skirt around (so the urine would dry in the open office air) and sit back down. It took me two hours to convince her to go home, heavily spraying the office with Lysol after she'd gone to eliminate the intense urine smell that had begun to filter out into the building's open student area. I finally had to make a quick trip home to change clothes and rid myself of the awful smell that clung to me as various people who entered the office would back out quickly, surely thinking I was the cause of that awful smell. Within two weeks, very quietly and inconspicuously, I secured another position on campus. Ms. Nightmare will remain imbedded in my memory as possibly the purest epitome of etiquette hell.    business0626-02

I had been working a call center of about 8 people for approximately 2 months. School started back up and we lost a couple of people because they were students. The company went to a temporary agency and brought in a couple of people to replace them. In walks this girl. She's dressed all ratty and her hair looks dirty and and she smells none to good. Of course, I end up training her. First she belches every time she takes a drink of her soda. Wouldn't be so bad but I think she went and bought one every hour on the hour and they were smelly belches. She had no phone etiquette to speak of (this was a call center). And then after lunch I am trying to explain to her how to fill out an order and she actually leaned over, lifted her leg (literally), and blew out one of the largest, loudest, smelliest farts I have ever witnessed. And she did this with no apology or anything. She acted like nothing happened!!! This happened a couple more times. She was there for only one more day before she got caught stealing about $100 from another ladies purse. I will never forget working with her though.    Business1111-02

I've never really liked it when people hit up their co-workers to buy their kids' raffle tickets, candy bars, or Girl Scout cookies. I think it makes people uncomfortable, and part of the point of these sales is to teach the kids to speak up. But one co-worker really took the cake.

No one really liked her, she was surly, and always tried to pass her work off to other people. But she was taking orders for Girl Scout cookies, at $3.50 a box. Many people (NOT including me) were filling out forms and paying her, until another employee said "My niece is selling them, and they're only $3.00 a box." Yep, someone was using the good reputation of the Girl Scouts to make a tiny personal profit. She stammered "Oh, I must have heard wrong." If she were lucky, she would have sold 50 boxes of cookies, tops, at this small office. She certainly lost a lot of face for maybe 25 bucks!

She quit soon after. Do I have to say that no one was sorry to see her go?


I had a home-based business for almost nine years. I had lots of interesting run-ins with some very rude people, but this lady left a big impression...mostly on the floor, after my jaw hit it.

As with many home based businesses, mine was network marketing, which meant that I looked for people who were interested in starting their own business, and then I helped train them. This particular woman, I'll call her Sue, answered an ad I had placed. I told her about the company, and she told me about herself. She was interested, so we looked at what things she needed to do to get started: where would she find business, how many demonstrations she needed to get, and so on. She wanted to join, and she had an impressive number of ideas for her business, so I went over the costs and the reward program, and what it would take to earn it during her start up. There were several levels of reward, with the final reward being a 100% refund of her "kit" cost. I even gave her an easy start opportunity: I had previously set up a large demonstration/fundraiser with a daycare, and it turned out that the person who organized it was a friend of Sue's. The demo was in a little over a week, and should result in a large number of bookings (more demos scheduled from guests at the party). All Sue had to do was come, help set up, watch, and help take the orders. I showed her how to fill out the order forms.

Sue didn't show up at the demo until it had already begun, and she brought her four young children, whom she made no real attempt to control. She didn't help with a single order and left early. Nonetheless, I gave her some of the names of people who wanted to do a party because I'd said I would. I went over what she should do next, to schedule her parties.

Over the next two weeks, I checked with her on her progress. She finally admitted that she hadn't talked to anyone, she'd just left a hostess packet at their door. She "didn't like to use phones". That was the first time my jaw fell. I'd made it very clear that this business took lots of phone time, and this was the first I'd heard of this "problem". She did finally get one scheduled, but since she had been so busy with her kids at the demo she was supposed to watch, could I help her on this demo? So, making it clear that if I did the demo, I would get the money, I agreed.

I walked her through everything multiple times. She couldn't figure out how to do the order forms, even after I'd sat and done them with her time and time again. I did the demo, but it wasn't huge, since Sue hadn't followed the advice for coaching her hostess. I helped Sue put the order in to the company, since she was having such a hard time getting the Master Order figured correctly. Now she was complaining loudly about not making any money yet. Thoroughly sick of this woman, I just let her keep the commission.

I told her over and over what she needed to do to earn the rewards the company offered, but she wouldn't do any of it. She finally scheduled one party right before the deadline for the reward program. Finally figuring out that I wasn't responsible for her success if she wasn't willing to be coached, I let her know that I was available to help her, but she needed to call me.

I did get a call, from my company's home office. There was a complaint against me from Sue. I'd lied to her, told her she'd get the kit for free, she'd never even opened her kit boxes, she wanted a refund, etc.

I filled them in on the Rest of the Story. They noted that they thought so, considering I had a perfect record, and she had a customer complaint. Whoa, customer complaint? Who? So I got the lady's phone number so I could fix her problem. Sidebar-as a member of the Direct Marketer's Association, this company is obligated to refund any new member's start-up kit, less a restocking fee, and they had a 100% money-back guarantee if she'd returned the kit within 6 weeks. If only she hadn't lied and tried to fraudulently claim she'd never used the kit, that is!

When I spoke with the complaining customer, she told me that Sue had been the salesperson for a party a friend had. The customer hadn't gone, but had ordered a small item. When told how much the total was, she was shocked at how much shipping this company charged. But, feeling sadder but wiser, simply decided she would never buy anything from our company again. But, a few weeks later another friend had a party with the same company. The customer, feeling obligated to her friend, picked out another item which happened to be the same price as the first. She was quite surprised to find that her total this time was almost $4 less than the first time! This time she double-checked with the salesperson--yup, correct total. So now she calls Sue, to tell her that Sue has overcharged her by mistake. Sue's response was, "That's too bad for you! You should have figured that out back then. Fat chance you're getting a refund now! Tough luck."

Again, jaw on the floor. I immediately ran by the customer's house and refunded her money, after apologizing profusely. I simply couldn't believe the gall of this woman. I was so glad that she left the company!!        Business1108-02

When I first started my current job, I was 22 years old. It was a small manufacturing company so I moved up pretty quickly. By the time I was 24, I was handling all of the traffic inbound and outbound. That meant that trucking companies and various parcel services would call on me to try and get my business. I was awfully young and the double whammy was that I was (and still am) a girl in a male dominated position. I got all kinds of rude comments and pigs that stared at my chest and spoke down to me, just charming stuff.

This story takes the cake, though. After what I thought was a successful sales call with a young man from a very famous package delivery company, we started chatting. It was very friendly until he asked me, seriously, "So, how did you get this job? Is your Dad the president or something?" What a jackass! Needless to say, they did not get our business.

The kicker is, about 5 years later he came back to call on me again, he was training someone to take his place as he had been promoted. I just laughed at him when he asked me if I had a few minutes. I told him no and I told him why. He was very apologetic, left pretty quickly and I haven't spoken to him since.        Business1022-02

I worked for an interior design firm that did a lot of large government contracts. Over a period of eight months, we went from seven employees to twenty-one. But we had never gotten around to ordering staplers, scissors, etc for all the new people. People who had to cut and paste pictures, plans, and charts were sharing one pair of scissors for three people. The assistant manager sent around a list for everyone to indicate what they needed for their workstation. We placed the order.

The owner of the company was notorious for not being available to sign checks. Even though we knew the dollar amount of the office supply order, we couldn't get him to write a check until the delivery driver was there. He shouted at us that the order far exceeded the "office supply budget," which $100 per month. He got on the floor and went through the boxes, sending back staplers, scissors, and tape dispensers, and then refused to pay for what he kept until he got a corrected invoice!

The assistant manager told us about how the owner had something drip on his suit while at a worksite - she highlighted the intensity of the disaster by pointing out that he wore $5,000 custom made suits.

His dislike for signing checks included our payroll checks - he gave instructions not to hand them out until 2:00 on Friday afternoon so he would have the money in his account over the weekend. What he probably never figured out was that one local bank kept one teller on the current day because a courier had to pull deposits from a remote ATM at 2:00 and then drive them to the branch. Everyone who dealt with that bank was able to get their checks in on Friday.

I should have realized there were problems when I started - the company had been in business for fifteen years, but besides the owner the person who had been there the longest had only been there a year and a half! Where did everyone else go?       Business1010-02

There were three women in my office who were all pregnant at the same time - so I guess people were pretty much sick of babies, however, showers were still planned. It seems like the people who were doing the planning weren't pleased with the rest of the office's lack of participation in the process, especially the gift giving part. The e-mail below was sent around two days before Shower Number 2#. All I can say is, voluntary is one thing, but forcing people to give money....that is another.....I just found the whole thing very tacky. And then my friend in another office told me about this site. Perfect!

Hello Everyone,

As you know, Lisa's baby shower is Monday at 4. We're really excited to be able to have a party for her and present her with a gift certificate for Babies R Us.

However, we are not excited to present her a gift certificate for $21. I know that some of you are planning on buying Lisa a present on your own, and others have told me that they will contribute the gift certificate. It would be very helpful to Shelley if you could, in the traditional way, please communicate your intentions. If you are planning to contribute to the gift certificate fund, or if you are planning to buy your own present, can you please take a minute and email Shelley? This way we can plan appropriately. Marge intended to buy the gift certificate today but we might need to rethink the plan. And that means no free cake.


A little over a year after I started a new job I got a new boss. This new boss in an effort to get to know her new department made a lunch reservation at a nice Italian restaurant close by for a lunchtime one on one meeting with the supervisor that originally hired me. I didn't know this until she marched into my office and asked if I would like to go in her place... apparently my original supervisor refused to go because she was leaving early that day to go get a massage.


Two years ago, I worked as a receptionist at a small computer company. My job consisted of the usual receptionist duties: Answer the phone, do the filing, greet customers, etc. Since it was a new office, I was also in charge of setting a few things up. I helped order office supplies and stationery, arranged to have coke and coffee machines brought in, and I ordered a sign for the reception area, right behind my desk. The sign consisted of individual letters that were glued to the wall.

A month or so after the sign was put up (I did it after work one day), Head Office changed our logo. That meant ordering all new stationery, business cards, and yes, a new sign.

When the letters for the new sign came in, I asked the boss if we should hire someone to take the old one down and install the new one (taking the glued letters off the wall could cause a lot of damage, and there would be plastering and sanding and painting involved). The boss told me that the company "couldn't afford it" and that I should do it. Oh, and we had to have it done in three days, because the owner of the company was coming, and he'd want to see the new sign up.

I told him I had no experience with this sort of thing, and hiring a professional would give us better results. He told me it was out of the question. He told me to get some of the technicians to help me.

So I removed the letters from the wall, which tore the plaster and drywall. (Someone later said I should have used an adhesive solvent to take the letters off-- great idea, I suppose, but he told me this AFTER I had taken the letters down. He knew I was going to do this, and he couldn't have told me sooner? I don't know anything about this stuff!) I went to the store, bought plaster, putty knives, sand paper, drop cloths, painting supplies and various other wall-patching stuff. I also matched the paint that we had used on the walls. I did this all on my own time, after work.

I then patched the holes in the wall. It was a pretty big patch, because the holes were big. When that was dry, I sanded, but it wasn't working, so I went out and rented a sander. I stood on the table behind my desk (which was built to hold printers and fax machines, not 115 pounds of receptionist) and sanded with a sander I had no experience with. When I got the patch as smooth as I could, I painted, and then I stuck the letters to the wall. All this with no help-- even though there were more experienced people in the office that could have lent a hand. The technicians were too busy doing their actual jobs to help much.

I worked for three days, staying late every day, trying to get the wall finished and the sign up before the owner came. When my boss saw the final project, which I have to say looked pretty good, he said "I can see the patch."

Not "well done" or "thanks". I had to bite my tongue from saying "Well, if you had wanted professional results, you should have hired a professional. I told you I had never done this before."

In the end, the owner's schedule didn't allow him to come visit the office, so my rush job turned out to be completely unnecessary. I was not paid for the extra time I spent working on the wall, or for the fact that I was doing a risky job that was FAR beyond the scope of my responsibilities as a receptionist. I wasn't even thanked.       Business0823-02

One of my first jobs in an office was arranged by my uncle. It was part-time for the uncle's company and part-time for a law firm. Answering phones, light typing, filing, etc. During my time there the senior lawyer had me - notarize blank documents including Quit Claim Deeds which he then filled in himself as part of his shady business dealings - forge his wife's name and then notarize the forgery on mortgage papers for his new house - lie repeatedly to judges and other court officials when his schedule became cluttered. - pay my replacement out of my own pocket for a vacation I took, including the 2 days I was stranded when the airline I was on went belly-up.  That's quite a bit of illegal activity you time, quit upon being asked to do the first unethical, illegal action.

He also insisted on keeping files punched and secured, even though he pulled them apart as soon as you secured them and then would hand them back to you to reassemble. He would constantly insist I was losing things, most of which I could find in under 5 min. on his desk.

When we moved the office to another building in the office park, instead of hiring movers, we packed the office ourselves, moved to the new building and unpacked. For this we received no additional pay and only pizza and soda for our efforts. I stuck it out for 3 years because I knew that was the minimum I could do before anyone else would hire me. After I left, I got a notice from the IRS about failure to pay taxes and back taxes with penalties. He had been claiming everyone in the office as an independent contractor instead of an employee and being 18 I didn't know much about filing taxes. I fought it with the help my new boss (who told me he nearly didn't hire me based solely on my employment with this bozo) and won.

In his response papers to the IRS he claimed I was their bookkeeper, kept my own schedule and hours, and used my own equipment. All total fabrication. My cousin stayed on there (the only "employee") and told me my replacement was not there 2 weeks before she quit. She had been promised insurance benefits which she didn't get. He threw a pen at her as she was leaving and was screaming at her. I heard there was an investigation to have him disbarred but never was called to testify. I can only hope.       Business0817-02

Dex was the most "plastic" person anyone had ever met. If he happened to be walking down the hall with one of the employees for more than three steps, he felt compelled to ask a "personal" question. "How is your husband doing?" "Going out of town for the holidays with your family?" More often than not, when he would ask something like this, he would just ignore the answer and suddenly walk in the other direction. Once, he asked an employee how her husband was doing and he'd died three weeks earlier! This wasn't a big office - maybe 90 people at the most and the loss of her husband was tragic and everyone knew about it!

He always tried to play "hero" at certain holidays and would give "gift vouchers" from a supermarket at Thanksgiving (under the guise of "buying the turkey") which would have been fine except for one thing - the voucher was only for $25 and each employee was taxed on their W-2s at the end of the year! Nice gift, eh?

One year I had worked for him (and the company which is a major investment bank in the US) especially hard and outside the scope of my normal job duties. Long story short, I worked 3,572 hours in one year - yes, I kept track of it even though I knew I wouldn't be compensated for it - which compares with the "normal" 2,080 hours (40 hours/week for 52 weeks). Now, keep in mind that Dex's compensation for one year would be almost 6 figures but that doesn't buy class at all. I get home from work one night at 9:30pm (15 hours that day) and there is a knock on my door. I don't recognize the person but I notice that she's holding a rather large box. I open the door and it is one of my neighbors whom I don't even know and this box has been delivered to her house. I look at the label and it is addressed to me but has her address and the pre-printed label says, "Merry Christmas, Dex." I recognized the company as one of those over-priced gourmet food suppliers that you order over the phone (pre-Internet days). I knew what it was (got the fruit cake the year before) so I asked my neighbor to wait for a second while I opened it. For all of the work that I did for him, I got 4 apples, 3 pears, 2 blocks of cheese and a summer sausage! I just took it out of the box and gave it directly to her. She couldn't have been happier and I could have cared less! He couldn't even get the address right!

Of course, in January my income had been grossed-up for this "lavish" gift. I rang HR to inquire about it and was told that if he submitted the expense for reimbursement that I would be taxed on it! Of course, I got him back for it! When I got to the office the morning after I received the fruit basket, I thanked him for it (in person and again in writing) even though I never so much as got a verbal acknowledgement of the gift that I'd bought him (a framed picture that had sentimental value to him) OR the gift that I'd bought his wife. My "revenge" was when he would send his annual "Christmas Notes" to all of the employees. You know the type, same generic message/greeting but just change the names of the recipient and spouse? He called me in and asked if I could help him with some of the names of the spouses. See where this is going? For each one, I either gave him the wrong name or I misspelled their correct name.    Oh, yeah.  That was mature.  Retaliating against the boss at the expense of others. Not! No one really cared much for him so when they got their "cards" they knew exactly what had happened and we all had a big laugh about it. He was oblivious to it and it didn't even "hit" him when he was at the Christmas party and he was introduced to the spouses with their correct names! I left three months after the beginning of the year and have never had any regrets. I'm still friends with a lot of the people in that office and he's no longer there. We still all have a big laugh many years later about those cards and how cheap he was to submit the "Turkey Vouchers" to accounts payable for reimbursement!


A few years ago I was employed as news director for a small market radio station and broadcast company. My boss had become fairly well known regionally as an on-air radio personality and has even won some national radio broadcast awards for his work. Dubiously, the "Boss" also has maintained a reputation for his often forward and crass comments. Not long after I had been working at this radio station I dropped in one day to spend a few minutes recording some on-air material and organizing news for the following morning. While I was in one room the "Boss" chose the opportunity to get acquainted with a lady friend who had accompanied me. They were only a few feet away and I could see them talking but couldn't hear their conversation on the other side of the glass. Once we left my friend described the conversation she had with the "Boss". She said he had abruptly asked her, "Do you love him?". She said, "Yes". He followed with, "Does he love you?". Becoming embarrassed she sheepishly responded, "I don't know." The "Boss" then retorted, "Well don't get pregnant trying to find out." Thankfully, I wasn't able to hear this conversation when it took place and had ample time to calm down before I saw the "Boss" again. A heck of a first impression don't you think?        Business1126-02

I have a cleaning business and have become friends with many that I clean for, I thought. I don't normally have parties, so this was my first. I told Cindy one day while I was cleaning that I was mailing her an invitation to this taste-testing. She said she had just heard someone talking about that same type of party and it sounded like fun. I told her it would mean so much to me if she came to mine. RSVP Invitations want out ten days in advance. Party day. No call. No show. Three days later when I cleaned, there on her counter were all the wonderful foods she bought from someone else's party. Tacky to not RSVP. Tackier to leave the stuff on the counter to hurt me. I no longer clean for this etiquette challenged person.     Business1114-02

I worked for a Walgreen's drugstore in the early 1980s. The manager passed out a memo to all the employees with our November paychecks that thanked us for all our service through the year, and as a thank you, management was sponsoring a Christmas party for the employees. At the bottom of the memo was a note that tickets to the Christmas party were $4.00. Nobody else on staff seemed to see anything wrong with this and thought I was a poor sport for not going.


Here's a great story of a time when I was forced (under duress) to act in a way that seriously contradicted traditional business etiquette.

Last spring and summer, while making plans to leave the country to teach in China, I found myself in the unenviable position of trying to find temp jobs in a small town. Because of the lack of available temporary employment, I took a job at the local movie theatre to make ends meet.

Now, this cinema is part of the largest theatre chain in the entire United States, so the corporate bureaucracy involved in running it was a bit frustrating at times. Not only was the corporation in financial straits (they later filed for bankruptcy), so we were forced to be understaffed at all times, but we got a new district manager who was utterly paranoid.

I was working the box office a few nights a week, and one of my duties was to answer the telephone if the managers weren't in their office (which they frequently weren't, as they were the ones who ran the movie projectors). I would answer the phone with the name of the company and my name (I have reception experience) and, if the person asked to speak to one of my bosses, I would ask who was calling, put them on hold, and locate my boss through the telephone intercom if they were near a phone, or by walkie-talkie, if they were busy with the projectors. I'll mention that I usually asked who was calling because often when a person called up asking to talk to one of the managers, they were simply a customer calling with a question that I could easily answer, and I didn't see the need to waste my manager's time.

Well, this new district manager (my bosses' boss) was quite put out at my request of "could I tell him who's calling, please?" (As he was new at his job and rarely present at the theatre where I worked, and I'd never been introduced to him, I didn't recognize his voice yet.) He issued a directive to the managers--my bosses and his employees--that the box office staff were no longer to ask who was calling. Why? Because, get this--he thought that I was being used as a pawn to SCREEN CALLS and that the managers were AVOIDING HIM. Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth, you know, since he was their boss and all. In fact, the managers would drop whatever they were doing if he called, but they would be quite likely to let others sit on hold if they were busy.

How serious was this directive? Well, let's just say that I slipped up once (old habits die hard) and asked who was calling on a phone call that turned out to be from one of my managers. I was threatened with a written warning if I ever did it again (if you get three written warnings you're fired.)

I can't tell you how much pleasure I derived from letting the district manager sit on hold after that.     Business1104-02

Louise was hired as secretary to the two partners of our firm, one of whom was quite a doozy herself, so finding someone who would accept and stay in the job was tough. However, we were told that Louise was "assertive", and shouldn't have any problem handling her problem boss.

The two of them should have shared a room at the nuthatch.

Louise knew how to make friends with her co-workers. First day, Louise creates documents, letters, etc., in a way that doesn't match the firm style, something that has been established for some time. When the stylebook is brought to her attention, she says, "Oh I've never done it that way so I'm not going to."

Louise is watching her weight. She is on a strange diet that consists of some sort of drink mix and all the raw vegetables she can eat. She actually walks the halls eating raw quartered cabbage heads, unpeeled carrots the size of rolling pins, etc.

Louise worries about her appearance. One day, in a staff meeting, she nudges me and says, "hand me that pen." I give her one, but she says, "No, no, that one, with the cap." I didn't know why she was being so picky--until she took the cap from the pen and used its pointed pocket-clip to perform some complicated oral surgery, right in front of everyone in the meeting!

Louise has a fun fashion sense. The Operations Manager hated having to send her home repeatedly to replace slit-to-there skirts and underwear-revealing blouses.

Louise had a fun love life. She called in one morning to say she would be late because "There's a man in my shower!" She'd also been carrying on an affair with a married man, and left her letters to him, and drafts of tell-all letters to his wife, on a public directory on the network. Everyone enjoyed them.

Louise is health-conscious. Even though she doesn't walk to work, she wears socks and tennis shoes to work every morning. She has no trouble changing into appropriate shoes for her outfit each day, since she has emptied the files from the file cabinet behind her desk and stacked them on the floor. The cabinet is now filled with her shoe collection.

Louise is an animal-lover. She buys a purebred cat and tells everyone, clients included, about her breeding plans. She tells one, over the phone in hearing of several office-mates, that she knew the cat was in heat because when she got home from work the day before, the cat was "creaming all over the sofa."

Believe it or not, this chick actually lasted at the company for 3 of the most mind-boggling years I've ever experienced, and even though I hated her at the time (since she was also incompetent and everyone else ended up doing half her work) I now sort of miss the entertainment.


This is pretty brief, but thought you would get appalled by this one -- Some teachers got together to purchase a retirement card for a co-worker. The person "in charge" demanded that everyone throw money for a gift to go along with the card. When the card was given, everyone was surprised to see that, on the back of the card, was a list of everyone who donated money, and how much they put in.     business0821-02

Page Last Updated May 18, 2007